photos by Lauren DiFulvio and The Blend
Denise and her husband Wes live in Ohio, where they are raising two preschoolers and two teens. Denise worked for 10 years in product sales, and now is co-owner and co-founder of laurelbox. Denise enjoys guilty pleasures like wearing fancy yoga clothes, barre fitness, and sipping wine. You can find her posting on Instagram and Facebook.
“Wait … what did you say?”
I remember the bistro table in the corner. It was our first date and more clearly, I remember his reply. “Yep, I have two kids, a 5-year-old little boy and a 7-year-old little girl.”
Cue the crickets … check please.
And then the Holy Spirit, to whom I would grow even closer in the next few years, nudged me to stay. I paused and began to ask him about these little children of his. If I was going to date him, they came as his plus two. So our relationship began, two steps forward, one step back. As I navigated these new waters, my mantra became “Sweet Jesus, meet me here.”
This man was different. There was a strength inside of him that captivated me. I respected him and his kindness welcomed me. He was a man of his word and did I mention that he was the most gorgeous man I had ever seen? I shared with my parents early on that “he reeks of the fruits of the spirit.” Oh, this man was filled with the fruit of forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I loved him. I loved who I became with him. We knew we were supposed to be together. And we also knew our relationship would probably be nitty-gritty to our eyeballs for the first few years. But we were in it together, as a team.
Date nights were sporadic, and holidays were not what I envisioned. Our relationship had a complicated side that I hadn’t noticed in the fine print when I signed up. The dynamics were new to everyone, as we all tried to figure out who is she? What’s her role? When do I give my say? Where do I fit?
I’d be delighted if I could say we all found our new rhythms quickly, but all of us had our less than fine moments that required grace and a cry out of “sweet Jesus, please meet me here.” That journey was part of the process as we all grew stronger and more patient.
I’m not their mom. They have a mom. So who am I to them? And a new part of me began to form. I knew I was chosen to be in their life. I was chosen as another woman to love them, protect them, and nurture them. It didn’t need a title. My role in their life was an action. I wanted to run in my strength. I am a creator and I can bring new life here. I found joy and beauty in this truth. So when we are all together as a family, we create. We master scavenger hunts, we sing made-up songs in a round while driving, paint pottery every Christmas, make new traditions, new memories. These memories link us together.
I am intentional about protecting who we are as a family even to this day. Early on, when I would compare myself to others, it was draining and I wasn’t congruent to whom I was designed to be. As I became aware of this, slowly but surely this little family of mine began to gel. I remember where I was standing by our kitchen table when our little girl was leaving to go back to her mom’s and she turned around and came back inside to give me a hug. She then left and I then wept. I had prayed for so long that I would be special enough in her heart that someday she would want to hug me. That was a turning point for me.
At our wedding, I chose to vow to them affirming my favorite things about each of them and letting them know I would never leave them. It was a highlight of the day. We walked back down the aisle after saying I Do, all four of us hand in hand. I was part of their family, and it felt so good.
I knew I was mothering them, but I was not their mother. I did not womb them, I did not rock them into early morning hours, I did not see their first steps or hear their first words. I did not comfort their first tears or take their first school pictures. I was as surprised as they were that this would be our story. However, our relationship doesn’t need a title. I was chosen to mother them and I get to love them, accept them, and believe in them. I wasn’t there for their firsts but I am here for the nows and the forever of nexts. My heart aches and soars with theirs because we are family and we are linked together.
I am not surprised at all now that I love them as deeply as I do.